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APTS, PBS Support NextGen TV Multicast Flexibility

ATSC 3.0
(Image credit: ATSC)

WASHINGTON—Non-commercial groups America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) see a “gap” in a previous order regarding NextGen TV regarding simulcasting of multicast streams that could impact their ability to fully bring ATSC 3.0 services to their viewers. As a result, the two organizations (PTV collectively) are backing a recent effort by the NAB.

In a joint filing to the FCC, PTV has thrown its support behind the NAB’s Petition of Declaratory Ruling calling for a clarification, and possibly new rule changes, to allow ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 stations to be flexible with multicast streams.

The original filing by the NAB asked that the FCC clarify whether its existing rules permit broadcasting in ATSC 3.0 to partner with other stations to host its simulcasted ATSC 1.0 multicast streams and/or to establish rules allowing the multicast of either ATSC 1.0 or ATSC 3.0 streams by another host station. NAB says that these rules will help preserve current existing programming as stations transition to NextGen TV.

PTV agrees, saying in its filing that “stations should not have to ‘choose’ between continuing to broadcast their existing multicast streams and participation in key new developments of Next Gen broadcasting. The rules should be clarified with regarding to multicast streams and simulcasting.”

In addition, PTV advocates that the FCC treat ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 simulcast signals used during the deployment period as operating under the license of the originating station rather than the transmitting station to avoid issues regarding advertising and licensee/content responsibility. While the FCC issued a ruling similar in 2017, PTV believes that greater clarification is now needed to resolve any potential issues.

Putting PTV stations’ dilemma into context, the filing cited an incident when a station participating in the NextGen TV launch in its market as an ATSC 1.0 host could not transmit its second HD channel in ATSC 3.0 due to regulatory concerns about splitting its streams between two ATSC 3.0 station hosts and the ATSC 3.0 host splitting between multiple ATSC 1.0 hosts.

“For these reasons, PTV respectfully urges the FCC to issue a Declaratory Ruling clarifying that its existing regulatory framework for the hosting of simulcast primary programming streams also applies to simulcast multicast streams,” the filing concludes. “PTV also asks the commission to promptly expand the application of these rules to cover the transmission of ATSC 1.0 multicast streams regardless of whether those streams are simulcast in ATSC 3.0. PTV stations want to be full participants in Next Gen deployments—not relegated to the sidelines due to their robust multicast streams."